Countdown to HLC
The Higher Learning Commission peer review team will be on site in just a few short weeks, and final preparations are underway! STLCC’s Assurance Argument, which describes the many ways we meet HLC’s criteria for accreditation, was completed in their system on Monday, Jan. 29. We also submitted other documents required for our accreditation review, including multi-campus and federal compliance reports.
We are working with the peer reviewers to set the schedule for the team’s visit on Feb. 26 – 27. As soon as the schedule is confirmed, we will notify faculty and staff. The peer review team will meet with different groups of college employees, board members and students. I strongly encourage you to attend meetings relevant to your role at the College when the final schedule is announced and to take the time to read and be familiar with the Assurance Argument.
If you have any questions about the accreditation process, please reach out to Dennis White or Dr. Joyce Johnson. On behalf of the entire Leadership Team, I want to thank all of you who contributed to STLCC’s accreditation review process. We look forward to a successful HLC visit.
Bellwether Award Finalist
On Monday, Jan. 29, several of us presented at the 2018 Community College Futures Assembly conference in Florida for the Bellwether Award, including Becky Epps, program manager for the Workforce Solutions Group, Amy Sonderman, coordinator at the Florissant Valley Campus, and Dawn Drinkard, MoWINs grant director of Missouri Community College Association.
The College was selected as one of 10 finalists from across the nation for its participation in the MoManufacturing WINs TAACCCT grant program. The effort was significant as the College served as the fiscal agent for this specific round of funding and significantly contributed to program outcomes. Across the state, there were 4,547 enrollees with a 70 percent successful job placement rate after program completion. The average annual wage for those who completed the program is $56,000. Participants who are eligible for the program included students who fell within TAA guidelines, veterans, unemployed, under-employed and low-skilled.
Please join me in congratulating all faculty and staff who participated in the MoWINs programs!
House Appropriations Committee Testimony
On Wednesday, Jan. 31, I testified to the House Education Appropriations Committee on behalf of all community colleges in Missouri. The two priorities I spoke from were to restore our core funding from the state (it is currently at the fiscal year 2000 level) and to delay the implementation of withholds for the new Department of Higher Education performance measures. My primary focus was on the ability of community colleges to meet workforce needs and to keep our tuition low for students across the state.
The next day, Committee Chairman Lyle Rowland stated he will recommend to the legislature to delay the performance-based funding mechanism for state-supported colleges and universities for three years so that institutions will know what areas to work on before their support is tied to them.
As you are aware, the state budget proposed by Governor Eric Greitens would cut higher education funding by 10 percent, or roughly $100 million, from its fiscal year 2018 level. Also in January, the Coordinating Board for Higher Education approved linking 10 percent of funding for publicly-backed colleges and universities to performance factors. Combined, this could place 20 percent of our core funding at risk during the 2019 fiscal year, hence it is critical that we continue to work through the legislative process to mitigate more potential cuts or withholds from our core funding.
Meeting with BJC Leadership
On Friday, Feb. 2, I met with the chair of the BJC board of directors and with the new president/CEO of BJC to discuss the new Center for Nursing and Health Sciences. Currently, several staff are engaged with BJC Human Resources and Training leadership to expand our partnership in health science programs, including the potential to expand programming beyond its current capacity. The new Center provides this opportunity and we are working with area healthcare providers to develop the programming that will best meet their workforce needs in the future.
As with all of our other healthcare partners, BJC leadership is incredibly excited about the new Center and the future employees it will prepare for their organization. We look forward to our expanded partnerships in the St. Louis region in the years to come.
Continuing Legislative Meetings
During the week of Feb. 5, I will meet with six legislators to discuss our priorities. I plan to meet with House Speaker Todd Richardson to discuss the potential of the House budget keeping our core funding at the 2018 level. As I mentioned in my January Newsletter, I am working my way through with individual meetings of our entire delegation, and House and Senate leadership, to share our concern about the proposed cuts to higher education funding for the 2019 fiscal year.
Mission Review Bill
In my role as chair of Missouri Community College Association, I established several objectives for the Presidents/Chancellors Council for the fiscal year. One of the key initiatives is to bring back the Mission Review Bill, which would allow community colleges in Missouri the ability to offer applied bachelor degrees in the future.
Our work with this effort is proceeding. Currently, Senate Bill 807, sponsored by Sen. Jay Wasson, is now third on the Senate perfection calendar. In addition, Sen. Gary Romine has introduced SB 577, which includes the same language.
On the House side, Rep. Steve Cookson’s House Bill 1465 is on the Senate’s House bill list. In addition, Rep. Donna Lichtenegger has introduced HB 1876. All of the bills are identical. The strategy of utilizing multiple introductions is to provide a back-up in case amendments may prohibit any particular bill from moving forward. In addition, all of the sponsors are good friends of community colleges and we appreciate their efforts!
I will keep you updated on this important legislation as it continues through the session.
DHE Commissioner’s Advisory Committee
In late January, I was appointed by the Department for Higher Education to serve on the DHE advisory committee for Commissioner Zora Mulligan. Our initial meeting was on Wednesday, Jan. 31, where I will serve with other university and college presidents and chancellors selected for this role.
Over time, we will work with the commissioner to provide input into the DHE’s initiatives. It is planned that this team will meet quarterly.
Update on VSIP Programs
To date, 53 faculty and staff have submitted forms for the two voluntary separation incentive plans offered in 2018. Rescissions have begun for some faculty who received a reduction in force notice and will continue over time. The deadline for submitting forms for either VSIP is Feb. 20.
In addition to faculty positions, the College plans to reduce up to 25 staff positions for this next fiscal year to address state budget cuts. Because of the VSIP programs offered in 2017 and this year, we have realized the majority of position reductions in the staff categories.
Business as Usual During Disruptive Times
It goes without saying that we are in very disruptive times, given recent funding reductions and changing demographics at the state and national levels. All public higher education institutions in Missouri have been impacted by lower enrollments and/or budget cuts from the state. Although none of this is easy to address, it is important for each of us to stay focused on our Mission and the College’s six Strategic Initiatives, as outlined below:
- Fostering Student Success
- Providing a Premier Student Experience
- Strengthening Community Awareness and Connections
- Aligning with Workforce Needs
- Promoting Accountability, Excellence, Innovation, Continuous Improvement, and Diversity and Inclusion
- Securing an Adequate Resource Base
I look forward to working with you in advancing the College to meet the St. Louis region’s needs in the years ahead!